I had the pleasure of visiting Brightpoint’s plant in Plainfield, Ind., this summer, and though I was awed by its packing and shipping warehouse facility, I was most impressed with David Brown’s keen understanding of some of the issues preventing enterprises from the widespread adoption of mobile and wireless technology. Brightpoint officially announced its expansion into mobile solutions, not just phones and accessories, last March at CTIA with its Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) division, headed by Brown. With Brown’s background in wireless, and Brightpoint’s carrier, manufacturer and channel relationships already in place—not to mention its impeccably run facility—AWS is poised to challenge traditional ideas of total solutions.
Mobile Enterprise: In terms of enterprise mobile solutions, there are many different components—devices, carriers, applications, etc. Nothing is standardized and enterprises don’t want to have to go through 15 points of contact to procure and support their solutions. When did Brightpoint start thinking it could alleviate some of these hassles?
David Brown: We started working on this in January 2005 and launched it in March at CTIA with partner announcements of Intel and Microsoft. We started on this project with an initiative called BWiz in 2001 and then cooled off a bit, but now over the last 8 or 12 months, it’s clear this is the time.
I talked earlier about leveraging our competencies such as manufacturing relationships, carrier relationships and customization. What we’ve really done with AWS is two things: open up new channels and [create] the opportunity for product development. From a new channel standpoint there’s really two channels; one is enterprise, meaning VARs and system’s integrators, and the other is WLAN and VoIP products, which fits the VAR/SI channel but also more channels we haven’t gone into yet.
ME: Wouldn’t WLANs and VoIP be part of product development?
DB: It is, but we believe that because we’re building a portfolio, a catalog of these products, there are other channels besides VARs for those. Tier-two telecoms are a target for WLAN and VoIP products. Right now there are 400 VoIP service providers out there. A lot are smaller and serving rural areas. Even smaller DSL and cable providers are going to be looking for a one-source shop for these types of products. Brightpoint fits well into that area.
From a product development standpoint, we’re going to develop WLAN products, VoIP products, content and enterprise solutions.
ME: But you don’t really make anything. What do you mean by product development?
DB: Right. From a product development standpoint, the job is to take a partnership with a manufacturer and really look at the channels that that product goes into and work to develop a program. Take a product and program, package, price and promote it. So internally you may partner with a company like Belkins, which has announced a partnership with us in the WLAN space, and say okay, where does that go? Does it go into national retail for all of our channels, does it go into the enterprise space, does it go to systems integrators? And then develop a program or productize it in a way that we can take it to market. So we’re not talking about taking a spec to a Taiwanese manufacturer and saying build this, we’re saying let’s take this product and bundle it in a way that the channel can sell it.
The VAR community is in the position now where it realizes the laptop is moving to the smartphone, so it’s our objective to go out and qualify VARs in a way that we take them into the mobility space as easily as possible. So we’ve taken this bundle, which is not complicated but we think unique in many ways—it’s a device, activation on multiple carriers, applications and support. And that’s a key differentiator, to be able to offer an ROI value proposition by providing solutions that make people more efficient in their business.